Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie

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Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: First Law World #4

Pages: 661

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Springtime in Styria. And that means war. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

It’s no secret that the last book of The First Law Trilogy left me with a huge stab wound on my back. One that I enjoyed immensely. I was afraid of reading the rest of the books, because the bar was pretty high. But my fears were pointless. Best Served Cold is a superb book that has nothing to envy to the first trilogy.

The time we follow Monza Murcatto and her band of merry men and women in a killing spree to satiate her thirst for vengeance. Seven targets are between them and the peace of mind Monza is seeking. One of those targets is Duke Orso himself, so the quest is far more dangerous that anyone could expect. Lucklily for Monza, she has a lot of gold to buy “loyal” assassins.

As in the previous books, this one has upstanding characters that make that fantasy world much more appealing and enjoyable. But the character development doesn’t hinder the pace. The story is a non-stop festival of different kind of actions: dark alley assassinations, undercover missions, infiltration ala Assassins Creed, skirmishes, full battles… Anything in the field of murder you could think of it is possibly in this book. The book is divided in seven parts, one for every target. Any of those feels different from the others, which is something very positive for such a big book. Obviously, there are better and worse parts. My favourite is the one to kill Mauthis, due to the weird sense of humor displayed in those chapters. The worst (but not bad) the part for the murder of Faithful Carpi… there were too many changes and I couldn’t get over one when the next was happening.

Maybe you are wondering if this story is linked with the shocking finale of the first trilogy. It is a different story, but the “new” political context is mentioned more than once. And Sulfur makes a lot of cameos along the story to let the reader know that the Big Bad Baldy is still out there being the Master Puppeteer I love to hate. The Eater made me so nervous every time he was in a scene. You never know when the kicks to the gut and groin are going to start with this writer… Because I have learned that with Joe Abercrombie is not a matter of IF… it’s a matter of WHEN those kicks will start.

And talking about guts… Man, the other books were bloody, but this one has increased the gore to a new level. It is mostly contained with one character, though: the mysterious Shenkt. A powerful something that is creepily strong and has no problem in using brute force in the most twisted and bloody way you can imagine. I’m talking about fingers drilling skulls or heartbreaking hand-to-hand combat… He is SO scary! But one of the best characters of the book. There are not many pages with him, but all of them are pure gold and full of “I was not expecting that” moments.

The catalog of interesting characters in this book is unending. All the main ones have something special to remember them by. We reconnect with Shivers, the Northman who wanted to claimed vengeance over Logen’s corpse but who changed his mind to pursuit a better life. He ends up in Styria, full of hope and good intentions, but second chances are hard to come by. Monza recruits him for her quest and the journey makes him a different man. His plot line is by far the saddest one. As a reader I felt hopeless and helpless with the events unraveling before me that transform Shivers into a bitter man. I am actually scared of him now…

The Master Poisoner Morveer and his sidekick Day are a joy for the reader. I love the way he talks, how he considers himself superior to everyone else. I know he is a perturbed individual that I should ignore, but the way he sees the world through the “blindfold” he wears is one of the most special characteristics of the story. On the other hand, Day was underused and underdeveloped. I would love to have read more about her. I have the feeling there is much more about her that what we learn.

Other character that should have had more time is Friendly. He is so weird and interesting. We barely get to know any of the background that made him behave the way he does. He may be cold, but his honesty makes him a beacon of light in a world plagued with too much smoke and too many mirrors. I hope he comes back in any of the following books to get to know him better.

We also reconnect with Vitari, but her part is not very important except for a revelation that would break your jaw. My brain is still boiling with all the implications… And we also have a lot more of Nicomo Cosca. In this book he shines with all his splendor and he has become one of my favourite characters in this saga. Even though I’m not sure if we can trust him, but I guess that’s the main trait of the character…

Monza… At first I was 100% pro-vengeance, so I was Team Monza all the way. But during the journey we get to know her quite a lot and I wouldn’t like to consider her my friend even if that could cost me my life (so dramatic!!). She is too self-centered. First me, then me and last… ME!! She sacrifices friendships and loyalties with an unsettling easiness and when we discover the truth about Benna… I wasn’t sure if I should support Monza or Orso. I need good guys and bad guys, but I should have learned by now that I’m not getting that with these books. The only good thing about Monza is that she is going to be a thorn in Bayaz’s mighty ass, so she is still on my “OK” book.

An awesome fest full of great moments. I have already bought The Heroes to keep with this saga sooner or later, because this is getting better and better.

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2019 – Book Gallery

 

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Bad Boy Biker – Scott Wylder

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Author: Scott Wylder
Pages: 46

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Working in a small diner in the town of Rock Face, Jess meets a remarkably sexy, confident biker, who happens also to be rich. Owning his own brewery in Texas, Cole Everson has come to Rock Face, Tennessee to find out more about the places his artist mother talked about and loved so much. She had grown up in Rock Face, surrounded by mountains, and always longed for the mountains after moving to Texas. She had painted several places and Cole used these paintings as his guide when he arrived in the small town. He wants to put these places in a book to memorialize them after his mother’s death.

Cole successfully recruits Jess to help him find some of the local places his mother spoke of all those years. This meant being alone with the sexy biker and fighting her own urges.

However, what happens in the shadow of the mountain, isolated from the world, stays in the shadow of that mountain. Or does it?

Sometimes picking a random Amazon free book from my huge stash makes me smile and other times… the opposite. With Bad Boy Biker I’m deep in the mud of the later scenario. The worst and best part of this book is exactly the same: its short length.

In this book we meet Jess, a waitress of a small diner in a town called Rock Face. She has some money issues, but her boss is pretty cool and help her however she can. We also meet Cole, son of a successful businessman and an adventurer looking for some local guide…

Obviously, two plus two equals four, so Jess is the main and only candidate of getting the partial job of being Cole’s guide. They go to a hike, they kiss, there are some sexy moment behind the scenes and… wait for it… THE END!! Forty pafges of absolutely nothing at all. I think this the most boring short story I have ever read. Ther is no sense of humor. There is no good romance. There is no hot sex. The characters are pretty basic and lack spark… I can’t find anything positive.

I don’t have anything else to say. The book ends when it should start, but it so bad that I’m glad it is short. Reading free books is a risky business. But. hey, they are free!! So, no harm…

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2018 – Book Gallery

Part & Parcel – Abigail Roux

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Author: Abigail Roux
Series: Sidewinder #3
Pages: 302

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Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott had their happy ending in sight when a friend’s call for help almost ended with them losing it to the blade of a knife. Now, in the aftermath of near-disaster, both men are trying to heal and move on.

Moving on together, though, is harder than either of them realized it would be. Kelly struggles with simply being a lover instead of the Doc, while Nick is mired in his recovery. The distance between them inches along in stilted silence.

Desperately seeking solace, Nick finally gathers the courage to sort through the possessions his dear friend and fellow Sidewinder teammate Elias Sanchez left him when he died. Instead of comforting memories, Nick and Kelly find a stack of letters and strict instructions from Eli that prompt them to send out a call for assistance. With Eli’s letters in hand, Sidewinder sets out on one last mission together, seeking peace and absolution from beyond the grave—and from each other.

Cut & Run by Abigail Roux was my first M/M book and I fell in love. Since then I have read a nice of bunch of books of that genre (let’s call it that). Getting a book by Abigail in my hands is always special. I love her characters and the fast paced stories with plenty of action. That’s why she is one of my favourites out there. That’s why it saddens me to say that this last book is quite disappointing…

Nick is recovering from his injuries with the help of Kelly. During that time, he decides to go through Eli’s box of mementos to see what his deceased friend and teammate left for him. Among many things, there were a bunch of letters with instructions for Nick and the rest of Sidewinder. Those letters described some kind of road trip with rules and activities to do as a group. When Eli died, Sidewinder felt broken… so he is trying to fix it from beyond the grave.

It’s a cute plot, if I’m being honest. I thought it was a clever way to reunite the members of Sidewinder (plus Zane!!). A first necessary step before all hell breaking loose and having to deal with it as a team. That was what I thought. I would have taken anything: a murder, a kidnap, a crazy treasure hunt, a weird conspiracy, a cult… Anything!! But what the reader gets is a bunch of big muscular guys crying all over the USA geography. Over and over again. I know the trip is emotional. I get that. But it’s emotional for them. They knew Elias. We, readers, do not. So you may call me a cold bastard, but I didn’t feel anything with all those moments that ended in tears. I was more like Zane, an awkward spectator who wanted to see the end of it as soon as possible.

Where is the action and danger I always link with these characters? I feel robbed. This is not the kind of story I expect when I read a book based on the Cut & Run universe. OK, now that’s out of my chest. But, if I don’t get that… does it mean the romance is mindblowing at least? WRONG!! The conflicts between Nick and Kelly were a pain to read. Kelly’s behaviour is all over the wrong places: insecurity, jelousy, self-righteousness… So, when they were not crying they were yelling at each other. Over and over again. I’m sorry, but Abigail in this book more than conflict creates a really unhealthy relationship. They are unable to communicate. They resolve everything with sex and swallow the rest… After this book, I’m incapable of believing in their love story.

I could also rant about the rules of Eli’s trip. I will keep it simple: what a cheap trick to force even more conflict… And what the hell was all that talk about Eli’s ghost and paranormal activities with phone apps? If it was meant as a joke I didn’t laugh at all. I was pretty scared of all the paranormal shenanigans going further than that…

Fortunately, this book is  bearable thanks to some characters like Ty and Zane. There were several parts of it were Zane’s actions have the focus and those are pretty enjoyable. Maybe because he is not one of the Sidewinders and as a reader I had that in common with him. He was like my ally during the book… Weird. I usually don’t feel the need of having back-up…

There is also a nice bomb about Nick’s life almost at the end of the book. It gives me hope that the next book and the ones beyond that are going to have at least some action. Abigail is good at the emotional stuff, but not if that is the whole deal of the book. She is the greatest when she mixes action, romance, humor and emotions. I wish with all my heart that this is not the last book by her that I’m going to read. I mean, she hasn’t published anything the last three years… That’s not normal at all for a Romance author. I hope everything is fine!

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2018 – Book Gallery

Outnumbered – Shay Savage

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Author: Shay Savage
Pages: 383

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I’m not exactly the social type. After spending most of my formative years in prison, I prefer an isolated existence in the wilderness of Canada’s Northwest Territories, making what little cash I need guiding tourists to the best hunting grounds. I have no desire for company; I crave solitude instead, especially during the subarctic winter months, but what am I supposed to do when I come across a woman in distress? I can’t just leave her to die in the cold, and a storm is on the way.

So now we are confined to my secluded cabin, and I quickly realize there’s something not quite right about Seri—or is her name Netti? She switches moods faster than a snowshoe hare changes direction. In fact, I’m starting to think there’s more than one person behind the mystifying woman’s intense, green eyes.

Physically, only two of us are trapped inside the rustic cabin, but I still feel outnumbered.

A very intriguing blurb if you ask me!! I have no problem about reading more conventional Romance, but when something that smells different crosses my path… It gets a bump on my list of pending books. Different doesn’t mean the book is going to be better, but at least the author is trying to push the reader out of their comfort zone. Romance with criminals is kind of new for me, so I had no idea what I could find and what I would think of it. This book hasn’t cleared my doubts about criminals in love, but it hasn’t made it worse.

The book is narrated from the point of view of Bishop, a fugitive that killed his abusive father and is living in a remote cabin in Canada. He has zero social skills and uses his isolation as a shield against human interaction. But the winter is coming and it is pretty hard up there; so when Bishop finds a woman almost unconscious near his place, he has no other option but to take her with him. That woman is Seri, a mysterious lady who is obviously running from something or someone. Due to the heavy storm, both of them have to tolerate each other in the small cabin that Bishop calls home.

The author is capable of hooking the reader pretty fast with the several personalities of Seri. Everyone of them with a different name. Seri is the happy, good girl. Iris is the bad-girl and foul-mouthed one. Netti is the calm and cold that mediates between them. The catch: Seri doens’t know about the other ones. Add that to Bishop’s ineptitude with other human beings and you will have an ejoyable situation where the reader has to unravel Seri’s mystery at the same time Bishop does. And that is the strongest part of this book. Sadly, during several chapters that situation is stuck in a loop that makes those chapters plain boring. The book would have been much better removing them and the reader wouldn’t have lost absolutely anything.

I guess this book is not for everyone. The main character is an unrepentant murderer that is haunted by violence every single day of his life. Bishop keeps imagining the death of everyone that surrounds him, so it can’t be hard to like him when he would obviously hate us. It’s a character that represents some dark corners of the human species, which could easily make the reader not root for him. Shay, keeping that in mind, works extra-hard to make him likeable when he is with Seri. At the end, you don’t feel he is an ex-con… just a weird guy with poor social skills. And the cat, Solo, helps a lot to bring out the best parts of Bishop’s soul.

I’m not going to comment about how the whole deal with Seri’s personalities has been treated. I have zero experience with that kind of mental disorders. I trust the author, who has a degree degree in psychology, has treated the situation fairly. But I must be honest and say that sometimes I thought I was reading some Paranormal Book… but that is problably just my ignorance.

And I can’t finish this without complaining about the smoking… I hate when Bishop smokes. As simple as that. It makes the book so much worse… I couldn’t stop imagining the horrible smell in such a small cabin… Disgusting!!

Overall, the book is very nice. Too slow, though. And the end… it doesn’t feel like an end. I hope everyting remains fine for them, but there are too many unknowns in their lives…

 

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2018 – Book Gallery